How to Reignite Social Growth if You've Plateaued

Here's a scenario: your brand's Instagram account growth has plateaued, you don't understand why, and you've exhausted all of your usual tricks in vain. Sound familiar?

This one's for you.


Don't be this person. It's bad form.

Instagram is an ever evolving ecosystem that is constantly in flux. There are more users than ever (cough, 700 million, cough), there are new tools being added on the reg, the business capabilities are increasingly robust, and the algorithm is never not being adjusted. While the Insta remains one of the best marketing conduits of our times, let's face the music: it's gotten kind of saturated. 🤦‍♀️

The ones who navigate the cluttered highways of the 'Gram like a Schumacher need to increasingly be on the cutting edge of strategy. An ear to the ground is simply not enough anymore: social media editors are required to grow grow grow their brand's audience even if there is such a thing as reaching a temporary plateau. Emphasis on temporary. It's not because you've hit a dry spell that you're done gaining followers. Not on our watch.

Why Are my Numbers Not Budging?

A growth drought is nothing if not standard. Heck, stagnation is a normal part of the process. It means that you've done all you could with your current strategy and that it's time to regroup, reassess and reformulate a new course of action. Give it a quick ponder: you can't keep expanding your Instagram audience by doing the same thing over and over again. Things change and so must you.

Perhaps your sluggish account growth is trying to tell you something. It's certainly not because the opportunities are lacking, but rather likely signifies that your methods are not evolving at the same pace as social media audiences. The best way to grow Instagram followers is to comply with their demands by developing a flexible social media marketing strategy that's easy to modify when required.

You should see this as something positive: a new challenge to meet and an opportunity to venture into the unfamiliar to evolve your brand's current efforts. When thinking about the exponential amount of regular users and businesses partaking in Instagram activities on the daily, slowdowns aren't surprising.

The problem is that plateauing is not part of any company's plan, yet it doesn't stop it from being a constantly lurking threat. And having observed it as a recent widespread predicament, we thought it was time to address the issue.

Very Punny.

A post shared by Elliot Tebele (@fuckjerry) on

Plateauing is always lurking in the bushes.

How can you reignite progress if you're experiencing a lull on the 'Gram? Learning how to grow your Instagram audience all over again as a sort of second phase of life is par for the course. If you feel like you've hit a wall and your current efforts are no longer doing it, it's time for some serious introspection.

Here's what you should do.

1. Observe Like a Hawk

Take a few days to do a deep dive on Insta. Explore the surroundings, scrutinize the territory, get a grasp on the patterns, the content that appears to be trending; put your spectator hat on and ask yourself what you're into seeing as an individual. Poke around brand accounts, influencer accounts and even those that are not in your niche. Examine the visual composition trends, color trends, societal trends.

Wrap your head around what's new, what's fresh, what gets you excited. Then regroup and start infusing those bits of newness in your own content in a way that makes sense. Do some testing and adjust accordingly. Being a social media editor should almost require a sociology degree: a big part of the job is surveilling what people are into, analyzing specific demographic segments to serve them up what they don't even know they want to see and interact with.

As a social media editor, you're in the business of forming habits. Form them.

2. Analyze Your Content (Deeply)

The most important part of any successful Instagram account is its visuals. If your content output is subpar, you'll never attract new followers, let alone retain the ones you already have. Even if your content is great (and be objective here), if you're not growing, it might be indicative of the fact that your audience and potential audience has moved on and wants to see something else from you.

Beyond manual calculations and surveying your published photos and videos, there is the Dash Hudson content segmentation Boards tool to assist you in the task do the work for you. And it provides cold, hard numbers. In fact, its granular capabilities are pretty bottomless, and it hands down provides the most accurate evaluation you can possibly get.

The tool allows brands to group their content pillars onto boards to analyze each segment's performance. This way they can literally see what types of visuals are doing best, and what posts within each group are outperforming others. A tool like this can play a pivotal role in account growth because it provides a tangible performance measurement.

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The Aritzia social team does an awesome job at listening to their followers and interacting with them when need be.

3. Engage, Engage, Engage

People are so used to having social platforms in their lives nowadays that most of the time they are consuming content without stopping to engage with it. It takes an extraordinarily compelling post to trigger a reaction, let alone a double tap, or god forbid an actual comment.

That said, when a user feels an emotional connection brought on by either a piece of visual content or an interaction from another account (yours!), human nature prevails and they get excited, expressing that sentiment by countering back. If an Instagram account (yours?) fails to ever communicate as such, it could be what's holding it back.

To make sure you don't stump your growth due to mismanaged connections, you're going to have to put a little elbow grease into it. That means not just replying to inquisitive commenters on your own content, but actually dispensing likes and comments on what other users are posting. Gasp, I know. But it must be done. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • If there are questions from your audience in your comments, you MUST reply to them. Not only is it good business, but believe it or not, it's also meaningful for your followers. I don't want to hear anything about not having enough time in a day or the over-abundance of inquiries cramping your work flow. This IS your work.

  • If your fans/followers/customers are excited enough about your brand to go as far as creating a piece of content with one of your items and then tagging you in the photo, do your due diligence and at least give it a like. Now here's a pro tip for growth: go one step further and leave a comment on that photo — a simple emoji will suffice here.

    This one stone serves to kill two very hefty birds: first, your followers will be over the moon to know that they've caught your attention and that you're actually showing love back. This will likely encourage them to create more content around your brand, consequently expanding your organic reach, aka outsider eyeballs. Second, your comment will increase your account visibility by more than you think.

    Have you ever noticed that the uncollapsed comment section only surfaces quips from big accounts or people you already follow? That means that your brand's presumably sizable account's comment will be among the top seen. Those views are worth their weight in gold when it comes to accumulating new followers. Trust.

  • It's not enough to generate content without consuming any. If you're in and out of Instagram just long enough to post your pre-planned image without ever interacting within the app, we suspect the algorithm might be wise to your nonreciprocal maneuvers. Don't just be a taker. Be giver, too. 😉

We've stressed the importance of community many times over and even gave you pointers on how to grow and nurture one. The idea of fostering your gang is more vital than ever.

4. Run a Contest

People love winning and they love free stuff. The prospect of both is a fail-proof way to court potential new followers. We've gone in-depth about contest best practices in the past, and we recently had an exemplary demonstration of how to take it to new heights (hot tip: maximize the UGC!), but here are a few pointers to bear in mind if you're going to take that route:

  • Make things worthwhile for both you and your audience.
  • Develop a multi-layered strategy encompassing a cross-platform promotional approach.
  • Set some goals, monitor those benchmarks, and allow yourself to be nimble for an adapted course of action.

The major objective that should serve as your guiding light when going the contest route is that you want to attract new long term followers, not have users drop off the second your sweepstakes have closed. Never stray from that principle and always measure every decision against it.

Jack Wills' summer Instagram contest gave the brand over 2 million impressions.


The fact of the matter is that if you're no longer growing, something's gotta give. It certainly isn't because there aren't new followers to be had, as there are new fish being added to the pond daily. It most likely has to do with your content, and the fact that you probably haven't switched things up to keep pace with what users want.

The social media plateau is real and there is one fail-proof way to remedy to it: change something.


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